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Citizenship Day observed at Crystal Bridges with naturalization ceremony for 99 new U.S. citizens

The commemoration honors both the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 and an observance that began in 1940 as “I Am an American Day.”

BENTONVILLE, Ark — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas will welcome 99 new citizens during a special naturalization ceremony on Sept. 19 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The event will be in celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day as part of Constitution Week (Sept. 17 to 23).

The commemoration honors both the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 and an observance that began in 1940 as “I Am an American Day.” 

Citizenship Day began in 1952 based on a law signed by President Harry Truman, and in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed the first Constitution Week.

Each year, USCIS celebrates Constitution Day and Citizenship Day – and Constitution Week – by celebrating the connection between the Constitution and citizenship, reflecting on what it means to be a citizen of the United States, and holding special naturalization ceremonies across the country. 

For Nellie Beall, it's the start of something new as she took the oath of allegiance at Crystal Bridges on Sept. 19. 

“I cried through a lot of it, it was very touching and it was very emotional. I mean, there's such gratitude in becoming a citizen and feeling like the process is finally over,” Beall recalled. 

Beall is from Malaysia and has lived in northwest Arkansas for 22 years. She says the journey to citizenship hasn’t been easy.

“You start off coming in on a visa if you were a student as I was, and then you continue on to getting a green card, and then there's a waiting period, and then you become a citizen. But it's not that easy. There are a lot of little things to do in between and paperwork and such,” said Beall.

Last year, more than 900,000 new citizens went through ceremonies just like this across the U.S.

Eva Millona, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), says in the state there are 26,000 lawful permanent residents and 12,000 of those are right here in NWA.  

“So we encourage them to come forward to apply for citizenship, we are here to support them to provide all the tools and the resources that they need, so they can complete their journey to the United States,” Millona says.

Coincidentally, the same day as Beall's ceremony is also National Voter Registration Day, and that's the first thing on her list. Beall expressed her gratitude to be able to vote in her country of residence. 

“I mean, I've been here 22 years, and I'm just ready to take it on and do everything I can to be a contributing citizen of this country,” she said.

For those who are hesitant to take the first steps toward citizenship, Beall has words of advice to help: “Take your time. It doesn't take away who you are, becoming a citizen. Doesn't take away all the years that you spent as a citizen of a different country, and go ahead and do it if that's what you choose to do so.”

USCIS often participates in naturalization ceremonies at museums, schools, libraries, and other notable locations to celebrate the conclusion of an immigrant’s journey to citizenship and honor the commitment they have shown along the way. 

Special venues not only make these events meaningful for those who have voluntarily chosen to participate in American democracy and dedicated themselves to the country’s future, but they also reflect the strength and spirit of the United States.

The 99 citizenship candidates came from: 

  • Burma 
  • Cambodia
  • Canada
  • China
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Laos
  • Liberia
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Nigeria
  • Norway
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Russia
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • United Kingdom
  • Vietnam.

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